EVERETTE L. DeGOLYER’S Chauffeur Gives History

Lang Wingard was the chauffeur and houseman for the family of the late Everette Lee DeGolyer, Sr., co-founder of the DeGolyer and MacNaughton Company, an internationally known geological consulting firm Hired by the DeGolyers in 1937, Wingard recalls his responsibilities while employed by Mr. De at his scenic estate, Rancho Encinal, located at the southeastern end of White Rock Lake. Lee Krebs interviewed Wingard on September 7 and 28, 1974.

Everette Lee DeGolyer, Sr

Everette Lee DeGolyer, Sr

Interviewer, LEE KREBS: Mr. Wingard, Dallas, in 1919, to that nineteen year-old man must have looked a lot different from what it does now. What are your memories of early Dallas?
WINGARD: My early memories of Dallas, beginning with the way it looked, Elm Street had blocks in place of pavement. We had (wood) blocks laid just like bricks down Elm Street.
Pacific Street was a dirt street and the Medical Arts [Building] was built since I was in town. I remember the first two red lights—signal lights—which went up. The first one was on Harwood and Main across from the City Hall. The next one was at Ervay and Elm Street across from where I used to work at the Palace Theater. At that particular time, we didn’t have any tall buildings. In fact, the Magnolia Building, the highest building that we had, was twenty eight stories, I believe. A lot happened since then according to what Dallas was like when I arrived here.
KREBS: You mentioned that Pacific was a dirt road in those days and you helped pave Pacific, didn’t you?
WINGARD:. Yes. The T&P Railroad had a track right in the middle of Pacific Avenue.
KREBS: You mentioned something about bells in connection with traffic signals.
WINGARD: Oh, yes The traffic signal, you moved when the bell rang. The signal came on, then the bell rang, that meant you could drive on then. But before then, we had policemen standing in the middle of the street directing traffic That was before they put the bells up.
KREBS: After your career with the paving company, in which you paved both Belmont and Pacific streets, you had a job, you said, with the Palace Theater.
WINGARD: The Palace Theater.
KREBS: What were your duties there?
WINGARD: I was what they called a footman. I wore the long coat with the brass buttons, a cap and everything, and opened the doors for these wealthy people when they drove up. I was what they called a footman.
KREBS: They were then exhibiting both movies and vaudeville? WINGARD: And vaudeville at that time.
KREBS: You must have seen a lot of interesting people pass through those doors, do you remember some of them?
WINGARD: I don’t remember any of the names because, just being from the country then, I didn’t realize just what was happening. But I had never seen an electric light before until I stopped in Shreveport, and looked out and saw one of those lights.
I wondered how often did they put oil in those lamps? I was from back down there in the country, and I’d never seen no lights like that.
KREBS: That’s right, you were born in Louisiana?
WINGARD: Way back down there in the woods I often wondered how often they put oil—they called it coal oil then and now it’s kerosene—but I wondered how often did they fill those lamps?
KREBS: Where did you live when you first came to Dallas?
WINGARD: I lived at 3512 Campbell Street with my cousin
KREBS: And the city limits of Dallas in those days must have been a great deal smaller. Did you do much traveling around?

KREBS • Now how did you get around?
WINGARD: I had a 1923 Ford with an open top so we drove—my wife and I–drove around quite a bit. That’s the way I can acquaint it. In the meantime, she got sick and I lost her. She died in Woodlawn Hospital, my first wife.
KREBS: What year was this?
WINGARD: In 1926.
KREBS: You were then living where?
WINGARD: I was living at 3512 Campbell.
KREBS: Were you still with the Palace Theater at that time.
WINGARD: I was still with them.
KREBS: How long were you with the Palace Theater?
WINGARD: Not too long, about four months, I guess Then I went to work for the T&P.
KREBS: That was Texas and Pacific Railroad.
WINGARD: Texas and Pacific Railroad.
KREBS: What did you do for them?
WINGARD: I worked there for a while. Mr. Lancaster, which was the president of the company, decided that he wanted me out to his home at 3645 Beverly Drive. I was out there until I got fired. I was driving too slow for him and he fired me. He said I was letting Fords and everything else pass. He had a Lincoln and I was trying to take care of his car and him, too, and I was driving a little bit too slow so he fired me.
KREBS: Your life was much bound up with cars. Do you remember the price of gasoline in those days when you were driving?
WINGARD: Depended on what grade you wanted to use From eight to nine cents a gallon.
KREBS: Eight to nine cents a gallon in the middle 1920s.
WINGARD: Oil was from ten to fifteen cents a quart.
KREBS: Prices of other things, I suppose, were about equal with those. For instance, as a young husband, what was your budget for the groceries, say?
WINGARD: From three to four dollars a week.
KREBS: Three to four dollars a week! You lived then on Campbell Street.
WINGARD: Campbell Street.

KREBS: You mentioned that Elm Street was a very lively area in those days. Do you want to tell me something about the Elm Street area?
WINGARD: Well, Elm Street from Harwood west on Elm was very gay. That was the theater area. The other part east we called that the slums then. We only had theaters back that way which would cost you about ten cents to see a show. Most of them around ten cents is all it would take and you could stay in there as long as you wanted to for ten cents. You could see the show over and over for ten cents. That was where they had pawn shops and little hamburger stands, all of these little small business places, and it was a very dangerous area. Elm Street crossed Central track which is Central Expressway today. You had all types of people in the area. It was dangerous to walk that particular street.
KREBS: What made it so dangerous, Mr. Wingard?
WINGARD: Well, at that time, the law enforcement wasn’t as set like it is today. People would kill you and get out of it so easily for the amount of fifty dollars. That’s the time when they had what you called “choc,” a drink they called “choc.” It was made out of hops, corn, yeast and all like that, same as your home-brew beer.
We used to make our own beer and cap it up and it would only take one bottle for you. . . . Now this “choc,” they called it, we used to go to the drugstore and get this food dye and you dyed it any color you wanted it. A quart of it would take care of a party. That was how strong it was. If the law caught you then you went to jail
KREBS: What else did you do during your leisure hours? How did a young husband and wife find recreation?
WINGARD: There wasn’t much to do at that particular time.  We’d go to the park and sit around the swimming pool and things like that As I said before, at that particular time we didn’t have any nice places to go to. We just had to make out with such as we had to offer down there.
KREBS: Did you go to any clubs or movies or theaters?
WINGARD: We weren’t able to go. We went to theaters and movies, but the clubs were out because we didn’t have the money to belong to any clubs.
KREBS: We haven’t mentioned here on tape that you are of the Negro race. Things were quite different, I suppose, for your people in those days.
WINGARD: Yes, it was It was very different. Regardless of what color you was or how you was mixed up, you still stayed over on that Negro side because you weren’t allowed to. . . If we stopped at a hamburger stand to get a hamburger, you had to go around to the back to get the hamburger. If we went into a place and was traveling or something and you wanted to eat, we’d have to go around to the back and sit on the garbage cans back there in the kitchen. We was the last ones that was waited on
I could talk all day on what experience I’ve had and on the way we was treated because we was really roughed up, if I might use that term. We could be traveling, we could go from here to Terrell and have to carry our own water, soda pop, your sandwiches, and everything. I stopped in Mesquite one night, had a flat on the car I was driving. They told me that they would give me fifteen minutes to get that damn thing out of there. I had the flat. At that time I was hungry and I wanted a sandwich and I wanted something cold to drink and I had to go around the back. Luckily, a wealthy farmer had a lot of influence and he talked them out of whatever they wanted to do to me before I could get out of there.
KREBS: I’m glad things have changed. Now we’re ready to hear how you got the job for the Everette DeGolyer family, Mr. Wingard.
WINGARD: She was, at that particular time—my wife was Mamie C. Wilson—she was my girlfriend and she happened to be employed by Mrs. E. DeGolyer at 6701 Turtle Creek She happened to find out about this job and told me that there might be an opportunity for me to get the job. So she called down to the Southwestern Life Insurance Building in the barber shop and told me that this job was open and would I like to take a chance whether or not I could get it. I went out for an interview. I did. I went out for an interview. Mrs. DeGolyer didn’t think too much of the way I looked because, at that particular time, I wasn’t eating regular. Such as I was eating, it wasn’t enough to take care of nutrition, I would call it, to take care of my body. I had got kind of poor and, in the meantime previous to that, I had surgery, then I had this loss I was just down and out, that’s all.
So I went out there and Mrs. DeGolyer hired me. I think I started with her for thirteen dollars a week. She told the maid and cook, “I don’t like the way he looks. He don’t look like he’s very healthy.
He don’t look like he’s healthy at all, and I don’t know what to do about it, but I’ll give him a chance ” She hired me. I proved to her that I was willing to do whatever she wanted me to do concerning the house and children. I proved to her that whatever she thought concerning my health, that I was able to do the job. I was there about two months when I went down, I had saved up a little money—I went down and bought me a car. Then Mrs. DeGolyer says, “Did you buy this car on credit?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “How much do you owe on it?” I said, “I owe $160.” She said, “Well, find out exactly the amount and I will pay it off.”

KREBS• She was very kind, wasn’t she? Now you worked for the DeGolyers before they built this lovely home here by White Rock Lake.
WINGARD:- Yes, we were at 6701 Turtle Creek, University Park, when they began this over here. At that particular time this was a dairy farm and Mrs. DeGolyer had had an accident coming from Colorado and turned the car over. They were driving a Packard then. She had to be hospitalized for several weeks. Mr. DeGolyer asked her if there was anything I can do for you.. She told him that one thing I want was that acreage out there on Garland Road. She said, “If you’ll get that for me, I will be very pleased.” Mr. DeGolyer said he investigated it and talked to real estate people to find out just what he could buy it for, and found out it sold for $1,500 an acre.
KREBS: You mentioned, I believe, there are about forty-five acres.
WINGARD: Forty-five acres in here at about $1,500 an acre. He went on and purchased this.
KREBS- This would be in about what year?
W1NGARD: I would say 1938 because the house was completed in 1939. It was 1939 because, at that particular time, Mr. DeGolyer had some work to do with the University of Texas down at Austin and he had taken me away from Mrs DeGolyer, which they got into about that because she always wanted me for herself and he wanted me too. I went down there as cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, and everything. He was doing something at the university, I don’t know what. We was down there for about nine months. We’d go down on Sunday afternoon and come back on the next Saturday, back to Dallas. They was building this house then. We’d get back here and he was still bragging on the way I’d taken care of him. I’d serve him his coffee in the bed in the mornings as soon as he awakened and hand him the paper . We sat there and visited with each other while he was drinking his coffee. Then I’d go back down and fix his breakfast and bring it up. But 1941, I remember when I was talking to him there in the bedroom upstairs. I’ll say this, we were in the home of Judge Bates—that’s Mrs. Aldredge’s brother-in-law, married one of the Aldredge girls— Judge Bates. I was talking to him and while we was talking, Pearl Harbor was bombed at that time. In the meantime, before we got there, I asked him, “What do you think about the war?” He said, “First thing, Lang, Japan is not able to fight us. They don’t have the oil or the gas.” A few minutes later, while we was talking, it came over the radio. They’d bombed Pearl Harbor. He was very surprised to hear that. So we stayed there until the ending of the time he was supposed to be down there, which was around nine months.
KREBS: That would be in Austin.
WINGARD: Yes. When we returned to Dallas the house was all completed and they had moved in.

KREBS: You said 1942, I believe you mean 1941, of course, the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
WINGARD: Yes, that’s right.
KREBS: So they moved into this house, I would call it a sort of Spanish architecture.
WINGARD: Yes, it was strictly, this was all in Spanish.
KREBS: I suppose that would come from the DeGolyers’ love of Mexico and the Spanish influence from Mexico.
WINGARD: Yes, if you’ll remember reading this book, you’ll find that they spent quite a bit of time in Mexico.
KREBS: Yes, this seems like a good time to mention the book written by Professor Lon Tinkle called Mister De. All of the questions I’m going to ask you or any information I have on Mr. and Mrs. DeGolyer have come to me from that book.
WINGARD: Yes, I would be able to verify a whole lot of things that I remember.
KREBS: Tell me about the DeGolyer family. Now there were four children, weren’t there?
WINGARD: There was four children, three girls and a boy. They lost their first child which was a boy.
KREBS: That child was born in Mexico, I believe. WINGARD: Yes.
KREBS: But when they moved here they had four children? WINGARD: They had four children.
KREBS: Three girls and one boy. Do you remember their names?
WINGARD: Virginia, Cecilia, and Dorothy and Everette, Jr.
KREBS: You must have watched those children grow up.
WINGARD: Yes, particularly Mr. Everette Lee, Jr. because I was the one who got him under the steering wheel for the first time and started him to driving. Mr. De was quite a supporter to Hockaday School, not Hockaday, out there on Preston Road, what is that called?
KREBS: St. Mark’s.
WINGARD: St. Mark’s. When St. Mark’s was about to fall through, Mr. DeGolyer kept it going. Everette was going out there, and I’d drive him every morning to school. I started him to driving. Learning him to be a wonderful driver.
KREBS: As chauffeur and servant for the DeGolyers, did you have to go out for them to do any of the marketing, the shopping?
WINGARD: Yes, quite a bit. Mrs DeGolyer depended on me fully to take care of those things and the cars and all the upkeep of the cars. A lot of times she didn’t know when I sent a car to the shop. She’d just find the bill on the first of the month and I’d have to go in and she’d ask me about it.

KREBS: You have then essentially lived in this Lakewood or East Dallas area since the late 1930s—about 1939—it must look a lot different to you now than what it looked like then.
WINGARD: Yes, beyond Loop 12 off Garland Road, which Loop 12 runs across Garland Road, that was a farm area through there. A whole lot of this across Garland Road here, which we are at now across from 8525 Garland Road, that was all vacant. It was a very few houses through here. Our closest place to get gas was down at Lakewood and Gaston, Abrams Road and Gaston. There wasn’t another filling station nearer than that. The hardware store was in that area where we had to get all of our supplies.
KREBS: How about groceries, where were they purchased?
WINGARD: At that particular time, Mrs. DeGolyer was trading with Hupp Grocery and that was over in the Oak Lawn area. That’s where she would order a whole lot of times, except emergencies, when she would send me to some store near here to pick up some small things.
KREBS: You must have seen a lot of famous people come and go on this lovely estate.
WINGARD: Well, I could name particularly one, Dean Acheson.  He was out here one night for dinner. We met him at the airport, and we was having a big party that night, I think it was four or five hundred people. We had a police escort from the airport, which I’ve never experienced anything like that before, the police ahead of us blocking all the traffic and stopping everybody and letting us by. I got quite a bang out of that
KREBS: Would this be while Mr . Acheson was Secretary?
WINGARD: Secretary of State.
KREBS: In the 1940s.
WINGARD: That’s right. I don’t really remember all of the people, important people, who have been in this home because we had some big parties here, eight and nine hundred people at a time.
KREBS- Where did you put that many people?
WINGARD: Out in the yard We had tables in between the magnolia trees, and we had tables from this front porch all the way up to the pool. We really had a lot of guests that night, I think it was around nine hundred.
KREBS- You mentioned once you had a famous recipe for planter’s punch
WINGARDi Planter’s punch, that was Mrs. DeGolyer’s favorite. She would ask for that planter’s punch when. . . . She never did drink anything, she always would have a little glass of sherry, but when she had guests, she wanted me to make this.  She mentioned it many times.  I had a way a little different from other people. I would put my glasses on trays and frost the glasses so they would be just as frosty and everything. There wasn’t ever any planter’s punch left.
KREBS: You must have had to make quite a lot at one time.
WINGARD: Oh, yes. I made quite a bit, enough for them to have a couple of glasses apiece. She would buy me anything I wanted, whatever I needed. Why, if she had guests, I’d just run out and get it and she would always reimburse me.

KREBS: You mentioned once that your present wife also worked here for the DeGolyers.
WINGARD: Yes, she was here about nineteen or twenty years, up until she got ill and she could no longer work. The doctor told her she couldn’t work any more. She was maid here.
KREBS: And after you had been here with the family for twenty years, a great tragedy befell the DeGolyer family upon the death of Everette DeGolyer. I think you were with Mr . De that last morning of his life in December of 1956, weren’t you?
WINGARD: Yes, I drove Mr. De to the office that particular morning and Marcia McGhee, his granddaughter; he thought an awful lot of her. She was a poem writer. We talked about Mr. DeGolyer, Jr.’s oldest daughter, which is Roberta, that was Miss Peggy’s daughter before he married this wife he has now. We talked. Then we got off on Marcia McGhee which he enjoyed so much; he enjoyed reading her poems that she wrote. That last morning that I drove him—we had a Lincoln Continental—when I got to the spillway down here, I had my window opened on the left side and it was too chilly on his neck. He asked me to raise that, and we got to talking about the grandchildren.
That particular time the office was on Greenville and Daniel Street, and he talked about the grandchildren all the way to the office. When he got out of the car when I stopped in front of the office, he stood outside and finished talking about Marcia. He says, “I don’t know, Lang, she’s always been a big favorite to me, in fact, I love all of my grandchildren.” But he said something about Marcia that he admired so much. And he went on to finish what he had to say to me standing outside of the car. That was my last visit with Mr. De. When he walked off, I rolled the glass down and said, “What time do You want me to pick you up?” He said, “The usual time, Lang, I’ll be home for lunch.” At 11:40 the secretary called me from the office. She said, “Lang, get over here right away, something terrible has happened!’ That’s when he. . .
KREBS: That’s when Mr. DeGolyer had shot himself. He had been in ill health and living on blood transfusions for awhile, had lost the sight of one eye. This must have been a very painful time for all of you You stayed on, did you not, after Mr. De’s death?
WINGARD: Yes. At the time, Mrs. DeGolyer was at the beauty shop, off of Preston Road. We had a very nervous cook and she said, “Oh, Mrs. DeGolyer ” —when she got back—” something terrible has happened to Mr . De.” She said, “Mr. De’s done killed himself.”
KREBS: This was the way that Mrs. DeGolyer learned of her husband’s death?
WINGARD: Yes, when she returned from the beauty shop It was most disturbing to everyone because I expected to go back and pick him up for lunch. Mr. De always looked good, and as far as I was concerned, the way he looked, why, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I didn’t have any knowledge of him having this dreadful disease. I just thought maybe it was just something because each time I talked with the doctor—Dr. John Burnett—he said, “Lang, he’s getting along fine.”

Courtesy Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.  Photo courtesy SMU, DeGolyer Library.